Stoked: Local surfing teacher hits the waves again following brain tumor treatment
Although a brain tumor diagnosis once prompted doctors to advise him to stay out of the waters he grew up in, 40-year-old Tim Reda is competing in a World Surf League event this weekend.
Reda, who also teaches and coaches the sport at Endless Sun Surf School, competed in the Assn. of Surfing Professionals’ World Longboard Championships in 2014, when they were held in China. Today he has aspirations to vie once again for a world title.
He grew up in Washington state, where he learned how to surf from his father. He spent his days chasing waves with his father and his father’s friends every summer in what his family called a “surfing safari” before eventually becoming a competitive surfer in his own right.
It was never in the plans to stop, Reda said, until he felt some numbness in his fingers after a requalification competition in Huntington Beach in 2015.
“I didn’t think much of it. But later on, we learned those were small, localized seizures that were on my motor strip [of the brain]. I failed to re-qualify to stay on the tour, and later found out when I went to a neurologist about the brain tumor through an MRI,” Reda said. “We went ahead and did a biopsy, which was risky because of where it was located on the motor strip, but through that we found out it was oligodendroglioma [a type of brain tumor that affects the central nervous system].”
The diagnosis came in March 2016, where Reda was told that not only would he not survive more than five to eight years after that, but he couldn’t return to the water because of the possibility of having a seizure and drowning.
A second opinion from doctors at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles did not rule out surgery but advised him he could lose mobility in his arms if they took that route. For someone who teaches surfing, that wasn’t an option. So, through chemotherapy and a change in diet, Reda managed to reduce the size of the tumor by about half.
“Several months of no surfing is a long time to us surfers,” his wife, Amy Reda, said. “So, he didn’t surf and stayed out of the water for several months but then went back in on his own accord. He hasn’t had any other seizures since.”
Tim started competing again not too long after, participating in local surfing competitions, which, he said, gave him a true sense of accomplishment.
“I just feel like I could kind of channel my energy toward going for it more. I could feel how precious life really is and how important the little moments are. Surfing is a very healing thing for me,” Tim said. “I teach surfing for a living and here [in Newport Beach] we own a surf school.
“Getting back into it — I was teaching someone with a disability, and that set my goal — I needed to get back in there so I could surf with him. At first, I couldn’t surf when I got my prognosis because of the seizure risk, but getting back into the water and feeling that energy again, it really brings everything back to a new day, like we’re living in the moment kind of an environment.
“A lot of times, when you get a bad card dealt to you, it’s easy to get down. I really did at first. But it was important to have something like surfing as a healing process for me.”
As this weekend’s competition in Morro Bay approached, Tim said he felt the same anticipation, coupled with being able to go back to chasing his dreams of going on a world surfing tour.
With it, he’ll also be competing in the Surfing for Hope contest, where he will be featured as a surfer to help raise proceeds for the nonprofit’s “survivor camps,” which are open to those who are undergoing or have completed cancer treatment.
“I do think it’s a testament to all the survivors that we don’t give up and we’re going to go out and doing it no matter what because we’ve got a different view of the world,” Tim said.
Amy said watching her husband’s journey to recovery is inspiring.
“Not only is he still going after all of his dreams, but he’s also helping other people and serving our community and … he’s a fighter in a lot of different ways,” she said. “The beginning was very hard for our family, but that was years ago. Today, currently, watching him go after this again — it really is inspiring to see someone not give up on their dreams and keep going after them.”
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